The most high-profile practice squad player in NFL history has been released.
On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys cut rookie defensive end Michael Sam from their practice squad. Unlike Sam’s former team, the St. Louis Rams, which fields one of the best groups of defensive linemen in the league, Dallas struggles up front, particularly in hassling quarterbacks. The Cowboys, though 6-1, boast just seven sacks. The Big D had presented Sam a near-ideal situation to migrate from the taxi squad to a game-day roster given that his talents mesh with their deficiencies.
Troy Davis, a second-year linebacker from Central Florida who spent some time on the Jets’ active roster last year, took his spot. The Jets released Davis on August 30.
Watching Davis the past two summers at training camp, and in some games last year, I was surprised the Jets cut him. He has a great motor, is a talented pass rusher, and plays solid against the run.
Davis is an upgrade over Sam at this stage of the game. He’s higher on the growth curve.
Sam is a one-trick pony right now–an edge pass rusher who doesn’t have a lot of moves. In the NFL, you can’t just come off the edge and get to quarterbacks consistently. Generally, the offensive tackles are too good to fall for that. You need great technique, and lot of different moves in your bag of tricks. Sam needs a lot of work in these areas.
Sam is still a player without a clear-cut position. He played defensive end at Missouri. At six-foot-two, 261 pounds, his size fits better at outside linebacker. But he has little experience playing in space and performed poorly at the position during the Senior Bowl.
The best option for Sam right now would be the Canadian Football League, where he could play defensive end at his size. The CFL generally has smaller defensive linemen than the NFL.
Or, he could join the new developmental league, the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL), which has teams in Brooklyn, Omaha, and Boston, plus a travel team based out of Florida. It would be a good place for him to get some game experience. It’s hard to develop during in-season NFL practices, which feature little contact and no tackling. Plus, Sam going to the FXFL would be great publicity for the new league. It would be good for both sides.
Sam’s best position remains defensive end, where the AP named him SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, after he amassed 11.5 sacks as a senior. If he can add size and strength, and get some real professional game experience, he could re-emerge with an NFL team in the future.